Representatives from Victoria’s peak multicultural bodies visited Shepparton on Wednesday 25 June 2014 to discuss the impact of proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
About 50 people were gathered at the Rumbalara Football Netball clubrooms for a Respecting Difference forum organised by Greater Shepparton City Council, Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group and the Ethnic Council of Shepparton.
Reconciliation Victoria Recognise project facilitator Emily Chauvel said maintaining adequate laws against racism was of utmost importance for Shepparton residents.
“Racism affects all members of the Shepparton community and each little word that is spoken in such hate damages people to the core,” Ms Chauvel said.
We need to find ways to educate each other to work in a much more respectful way.
Ms Chauvel said changes to the Racial Discrimination Act would put many social groups, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in danger.
“What the Attorney-General is proposing has delivered a devastating blow to protecting people from racial discrimination,” she said.
“There needs to be strong leadership from government that racism is not acceptable in our society.”
Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria board member Sundram Sivamalai said it was important to educate the community about the cultures of the town’s newest arrivals.
The Ballarat local said he had personally experienced racism in his own town and there was still more work to be done across country towns.
Some people have grown up in the town and not left the town, so this is the first time they might have come across a new culture,’’ Mr Sivamalai said. ‘‘So we have a role to educate the community.”
City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan said council had decided to hold the forum after a successful event last year.
“(Experiencing racism) is like most of life’s experiences — if you haven’t been through it yourself it’s very hard to understand,” Cr Houlihan said.
The next best thing is to listen and hear other people’s experiences.
Cr Houlihan said Shepparton was a great example of harmonious multiculturalism. “I think we’re a leading community … we have a natural affinity for living with different cultures because we’ve done it for so long, she said. “We’re setting a good example in holding these sorts of events.”
Article and image courtesy Shepparton News